Month 7, Day 29: False Equivalence — Variations on a Theme

According to the Financial Times (behind a subscription firewall, so I won’t link to it)…

International scientists have injected fresh evidence into the debate over global warming, saying that climate change is “undeniable” and shows clear signs of “human fingerprints” in the first major piece of research since the “Climategate” controversy.

The research, headed by the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration, is based on new data not available for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 2007, the target of attacks by sceptics in recent years.

The NOAA study drew on up to 11 different indicators of climate, and found that each one pointed to a world that was warming owing to the influence of greenhouse gases, said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the UK’s Met Office, one of the agencies participating.

The article quotes three climatologists. Then it quotes four so-called “skeptics,” presumably in the interests of balance (they include people from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute, a “blogger” and a financier who “follows climate change as a hobby.”). This shit makes my blood boil.

The evidence keeps coming in: climate change is real, it’s caused by humans, and it’s likely to cause enormous amounts of damage to the world we live in in the decades to come. The latest reports from the N.O.A.A. confirm what climatologists have been saying for years. 2010 is well on track to be the hottest year on record; storms and extreme weather are hammering places all over the globe; oceans are acidifying far faster than scientists’ rather conservative predictions — if we are to escape the direst consequences of global warming, we need concerted worldwide action, not cosmetic measures. But instead of helping people understand the dimensions of the crisis, our media choose to maintain a specious policy of false equivalence, as witness the ratio of climate scientists to denialists in Fiona Harvey’s article: three to four. To properly represent the scientific consensus, of course, the ratio should be around forty-eight to one. The Financial Times has abdicated its responsibility to the truth, and we are all the worse for it.

Warren Senders

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